Weighing on average 5 tons and reaching up to 50 feet in length, whale sharks take the crown for largest non-mammalian vertebrate. Even with their giant size, many mysteries surround the whale shark. For one, it is still unknown where whale sharks mate and give birth. For being so big, it’s astounding that in a time when surveillance is everywhere, we have yet to find a whale shark birthing ground. However, a recent study has shed some new light on one other mystery: juvenile migration.
Though whale sharks are capable of traveling thousands of miles per year (the longest migration covered 12,000 miles and was recorded for over two and a half years) (1), new research, from the August issue of the Marine Ecology Progress Series, suggests that juveniles will remain within a few hundred miles of their nursery grounds (2). The most likely reason for young whale sharks to remain in the zone is comfort in knowing when and where food will be. For marine planners this knowledge is highly valuable. Marine Protected Areas or MPAs are oceanic safe-havens used to conserve and protect threatened or endangered species or habitats; fishing and boating activities are highly restricted or outlawed in these areas. Whale sharks are currently listed as endangered by the IUCN, so being able to track where young whale sharks thrive could aid in the placement of future MPAs to their benefit.
This amazing Smarty Scoop was brought to you by a dear friend and marine conservation scientist Raye Evrard. Raye is a member of OCTO Group, and works every day to make sure news and research about ocean conservation is openly shared. Keep an eye out for more great Smarty Scoops about the ocean from Raye!
Story originally found at:
- Prebble CEM, Rohner CA, Pierce SJ, Robinson DP, Jaidah MY, Bach SS, Trueman CN (2018) Limited latitudinal ranging of juvenile whale sharks in the Western Indian Ocean suggests the existence of regional management units. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 601:167-183. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps12667